They may win, but we don't lose.
Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff/File
"They are not cute," my husband insists.
We are sitting on our veranda, watching the vervet monkeys snatch naka fruit from the date palm tree. The monkeys chew each stringy yellow naka for a second or two and then fling it to the grass.
Their mothers, it seems, did not teach them not to litter. Or, come to think of it, not to steal.
"Just look at their ears," I tell my husband. "They have the most amazing ears. You've got to admit it."
These monkeys have miniature human ears. They're neatly pinned back to the sides of their heads, gray to match their coats. If nothing else, the monkey mothers have a sense of style.
In the four years we've spent in this cottage on the eastern edge of Zimbabwe, we have waged a constant battle – my husband, son, and I – against our resident troop of monkeys.
They have stolen our mangoes. They have repeatedly ravaged our avocado crop, taking a bite out of each not-quite-ripe-enough (so not-yet-picked-by-us) green globe and then discarding it on the lawn.
They have crept up to our lone grenadilla creeper and cherry-picked the fruit I'd planned to turn into juice. One Christmas, they ate a whole lychee crop in one night.
Don't ask about the bananas.
I say "our troop," but I should say "troops" because there are at least two monkey factions vying for total control of our withered lawn. Sometimes, in the dead of night, they indulge in noisy turf battles by the bougainvillea, sending our cats scuttling onto the veranda.
We have tried nearly everything. Nets over the fruit (they break them). Shoes (they try to throw them back). Water pistols (my 6-year-old's idea: the monkeys find it mildly amusing). Adopting a fully grown dog to chase them (she finds it more dignified to sit and watch).
My mother-in-law, a former farmer's wife, brought us a small firecracker once. We spent a good half-hour herding pets and child into the house before throwing it to the side of the troop. The monkeys scattered with gratifying haste. Bingo, we thought.